Any of us may at some point realize that our current career isn't the one we'll want forever. When that happens, the prospect of career change can be scary, and the process itself can be stressful, but it can also be the key to success and happiness. You should know what to do and what not to do as you begin charting a new profession.
Even if you don't like your current job, staying with what's familiar can be tempting. However, fear of change can keep you in an unhappy situation for far too long.
There are ways to deal with the uncertainty of changing professions. Approaching your transition with a clear mind and an actionable plan will help you stay calm and grounded as you start building your new future.
As with most major life decisions, preparation is key. Here are four tips to help you prepare for a professional change.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to changing your career. First, you'll need to figure out what you want to do. This takes self-reflection and planning — rushing into a decision could lead to regret. Knowing what you want in your career requires that you know yourself, your strengths, your values, your goals — what fulfills you.
Once you know what you'd like to pursue, you'll need to plot out the steps to get there. Depending on your choice of career, you may need to go back to school or get several years of experience. Commit to the process, and don't worry about how long it will take.
While it's crucial to have a plan for getting to where you want to be, you know that life doesn't always accomodate us. Even the most carefully designed plans may not come to fruition. The best insurance against this is to treat each step as an experiment. The only failed experiments are the ones that we don't learn from.
This will also help you to avoid becoming so focused on the planning that you don't take any action at all. Take small, manageable steps to bring you closer to your goal, and adjust as you go. Start by reading one book, taking one class, or speaking with one professional in your desired field.
You probably feel comfortable with your current network of colleagues. It's entirely natural that we surround ourselves with like-minded peers. However, if you're looking for a change, you may not find it in your existing network.
Now is the time to expand your horizons, especially if you're not sure exactly which career you want to pursue. Spend time with people across a wide variety of industries and occupations to hear new stories and see new perspectives. This can be a great way to get inspired and motivated for change.
If you're not sure yet what you want to get out of your career change, spend a little time trying out different options. You could take classes on a variety of subjects at your community college to see what draws your interest. You could also set up informational interviews with people who do what you're considering. Check to see whether your current company will allow you to shadow people in other roles. Job shadowing is one of the best things you can do before committing to a change in profession. Seeing a professional in action will give you a much clearer idea of the work.
Most people have some natural tendencies that may undermine their efforts during their career change. Here are three pitfalls to avoid:
Going too fast or taking on too much can quickly lead to stress and burnout, which is the exact opposite of what you want in your new career. You may be tempted to send out your resume as soon as you make up your mind, but skipping important steps for training or education will make the process harder in the long run.
A change in profession is exciting, but it also can be stressful. You may have to juggle your existing job responsibilities while working toward your new career. You need to have healthy coping mechanisms for stress so that you don't become overwhelmed with your workload or with the uncertainty of the future. Although you don't have all the time in the world for stress relief, it's critical that you find opportunities to relax and clear your mind.
First impressions are key, so you need to be careful about how you present yourself. Excitement or anticipation for your new profession could come across as desperation, especially if you're making the change after losing your job.
Be able to explain why your previous field wasn't right for you, but avoid speaking too negatively about your old career. Overcommunicating about how much you hated your past job won't look good to prospective new employers or colleagues.
Changing your career is a scary but exciting decision. If you stick to your values, make a plan, and take small and consistent steps, you'll be well on your way to your new position. Most importantly, trust your instincts. Reflect on what you truly want out of your career, and listen to your gut if it's trying to steer you in a particular direction. Just remember to test your hypotheses. With patience and determination, you'll not only find your new career track, you'll do it with less stress and more confidence.